Friday, April 27, 2012

Pitching Juggernaut....Orioles?

   2012 has been a fabulous season for the Orioles so far. At 12-7, they sit near the top of the American League. While they have a few hitters whom have started off slow, the pitching staff has oddly enough been the key cog towards the teams' success. Check out these statistics through 19 games:

   The numbers above indicate that the pitching staff has been fairly effective. If someone had predicted this kind of start before the season began, I probably would have laughed at them. ERA, FIP, xFIP all under 4.00? That's not the pitching staff that everyone was told about! It's obviously very easy to get excited about these numbers (Even though they seem middle of the pack in an aspect, let's remember that the Yankees won the division last season with a 3.84 xFIP and the Phillies had the best xFIP at 3.41). However, there are a few concerning trends that I have noticed. I don't want to take anything away from the strong start by the Orioles, but it's important to remember that its only been one month.

   The starting pitching has been league average in the numbers of innings they have thrown. I am fine with that. I honestly never predicted them to lead the league in innings pitched, and they were dead last in 2011 with 881.0. Unfortunately there are two things I am worried about in the future. First off, can the Orioles starting pitching keep up with the amount of innings they are throwing? I still have my reservations on a few of them. Is Wei-Yin Chen anything more than a six-inning pitcher? Can Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta keep their pitch count down enough to even get a chance in the later innings (More-so Matusz here). This is a question that none of us know right now. The second thing I worry about is the bullpen getting tired. As of now, they are throwing an awful lot of innings. Pedro Strop is on pace to pitch over 100(!) innings. Take a look at the bullpen statistics throughout the first month:

Yes, the Orioles are first in relief pitching ERA. Yes, their FIP and xFIP are absolutely terrific so far. Unfortunately I am not sure that will stick unless the starting pitching can continue to keep up their current pace. Otherwise, the bullpen probably suffers here. I am not saying this WILL happen, but it could. If the starting pitching can keep up their productivity somehow, the bullpen is going to continue to impress (Those statistics above are including Kevin Gregg!!!)

   The final thing I want to look at is their competition. The Orioles have not exactly played the top tier offenses so far. The teams they have played and their statistics:

   Looking at the above statistics, it is possible to determine that majority of the teams they have face are league average or worse so far on offense.The only team that could been said has clearly been an offensive force is the Yankees. Otherwise they have yet to face another dominant offensive club. Of course these statistics are flawed, as these teams could very well end the season as productive lineups. However, as of April, they are all average or worse. Thus, it is probably not much of a reach saying that this might be a part of the reason the Orioles' pitching staff has been so successful. Obviously the staff needs to get some credit for helping towards making these offenses' average, but regardless it should be remembered that they were swept against the only "true" top tier team (at least so far this season).

   The upcoming schedule should provide us with a plethora of new ideas towards how good this pitching staff truly is. Maybe the Orioles can surprise a few people.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Errors and Crabcakes, That's What Baltimore Does!

Crabcakes are awesome, right?

Unfortunately errors are not very awesome. Thus, watching the Orioles play defense is dreadful. They lead the MLB with 16 Errors (As of 4/20/12), and most likely lead the league in starting pitching frustration. Of course, the starters have done a decent job of minimizing the damage from these errors for the most part. And obviously I didn't write this to tell you how terrible the Orioles are at defense. Interestingly enough, UZR seems to actually favor the Orioles defensively this season for some unfathomable reason.

Take a look at these odd and interesting statistics:
For anyone not up to speed with advanced defense metrics, here are the definitions:
Thanks of course to Fangraphs:
● Outfield Arm Runs (ARM) – The amount of runs above average an outfielder saves with their arm by preventing runners to advance.
● Double-Play Runs (DPR) – The amount of runs above average an infielder is in turning double-plays.
● Range Runs  (RngR) – Is the player an Ozzie Smith or an Adam Dunn? Do they get to more balls than average or not?
● Error Runs (ErrR) – Does the player commit more or fewer errors compared with a league-average player at their position?
   I thought the Orioles were terrible at defense? Apparently the advanced metrics do not agree entirely with that thought. As shown above, they are actually pretty damn good for the most part. Of course the ErrR is going to be near league bottom, since they do lead the league with 16 errors. But it is surprising to see that they are indeed favored defensively over quite a bit of teams so far.

Even more surprising was to look at the top 5 UZR players on the Orioles:
   Yes, you read that right. Wilson Betemit is 3rd on the Orioles in UZR. I don't think there is any logical explanation for this, but it's true. In fact, he has a better UZR than Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis, whom have combined for -0.8 UZR. Also you might find it interesting to see the man on the bottom of the totem pole:

   So what exactly is going on? Anyone whom has watched the Orioles play this season knows that they have looked dreadful at times defensively. Sure, there have been some excellent plays too, but the bad ones have been BAD. The only thing I can determine is that the season is young, and that if you factor out the errors, they actually haven't been too shabby. I know that everyone has been secretly impressed with how good Chris Davis has looked at times defensively (Of course then he makes an entirely laughable error). Endy Chavez has probably been the most impressive defensively, and UZR agrees. Matt Wieters has actually be disappointing so far defensively, but even then he still is tied for second with 2 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved).

   As the season goes on, I expect UZR to favor the Orioles less and less. However, as of now they are in good standards.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Prospect Watch: Glynn Davis

   There are a few players in every organization that are known best for their speed. They are also sometimes the best athletes in the entire system. The Orioles have a player that fits under this description very well. Glynn Davis has started off the 2012 season hot, and is speeding his way to the majors.

   Davis, 20, is a local kid from Baltimore whom played at Catonsville Community College before signing on as a free agent with the Orioles. At ~6'2" 170 lbs, Davis has a unique build which could hint that there is still a chance he could potentially grow enough to fill out his frame while still being an excellent runner. As of now, Davis is quickly proving himself as a guy to watch. At this point in his career, the statistics are probably not the most important factor in determining his talent and worth. However, his pure speed is absolutely relevant and easily noticed by looking at his numbers.

   Thru 375* PA, Davis has 29 SB. That equates to roughly 39 SB on a scale of 500 PA. As a 20 year old in only his second professional season, I would consider that above average. He has been caught 11 times also, but he is obviously still learning the art of base running.
*As of 4/19/12

2011193 Teams3 LgsA--Rk-A+69317282388016021624102957.284.351.362.713
2 Seasons81375329479716021929113567.295.363.362.725

   Even though it's generally not a good idea to look at low level statistics, the trend is certainly good in Davis' aspect. He really couldn't have started the 2012 season off any better. As you can see from above, he does not offer much in the power category. His ISO at Aberdeen last year was .067. Thru 58 PA in 2012, his ISO is .000 (that's not a typo). So don't exactly expect Davis to be a surging HR hitter. However, I do think once he puts a little muscle on his frame, he could surprise. I highly doubt he's ever going to be slapping 20 HR, or even 10, but there is always the possibility that a little pop shows up in his game down the road. The thing I do like about Davis is that he has good discipline and seems to understand the game at the current level he is playing on. Check out what a few people in the industry had to say about him before the 2012 season started:

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus:
Ranked Davis 17th
"Glynn Davis, OF: Burner with some idea at the plate, but quite raw."

Marc Hulet of Fangraphs:
Ranked Davis 12th
"Glynn Davis, CF: Davis has the chance to be a very interesting story after being signed in 2011 as a non-drafted free agent out of a small junior college. The speedy outfielder plays a solid center field and had a decent debut with the bat. He has plus speed and stole 23 bags in 32 tries" 

Orioles Nation:
 "Quick hand speed & short swing with good gap power potential. Solid rotation and weight transfer in the lower half helps maximize power out of his frame. Good awareness of strike zone; shows extensive plate coverage with ability to get the bat head out in a hurry, but needs to compact swing. Should add 20-30 lbs. which will bring some more pop. Plus-plus speed and true 80 runner. Can turn routine ground balls into infield singles. Good instincts on the base. Average arm. Defense is above-average, but needs to take better routes and rely less on speed in the outfield."

   I would suspect that Davis plays the full season at Delmarva. There is always the possibility he moves up to Fredrick, and in reality it would not be much of a surprise. He has played at a high level in Delmarva, albeit only a short time thus far. In the future, Davis is absolutely one to watch.

Prospect Watch: Joe Mahoney
Prospect Watch: Xavier Avery
Prospect Watch: Ryan Adams
Prospect Watch: Gabriel Lino

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mark Reynolds: The Man, The Myth, The Error.

   Originally I thought that putting Mark Reynolds back at 3B was the right decision. Boy... that quickly changed after only seven games. I thought there might be a chance that last season truly was a fluke. Of course Reynolds has never been a good defender. However, he was passable enough in Arizona so it was a possibility that he could have returned to his passable levels. In his  four years with Arizona, he averaged a -4.75 UZR. Not good by any means, but much better than the -22.8 UZR he posted with the Orioles in 2011. He does not seem to have gotten better by any means this year. Some may say that it is premature saying he is worse already, but honestly it's hard to say anything else at this point. Matt Kremnizter got me thinking this morning about 3B. So what other options are there?

   Chris Davis has played a decent amount of 3B in his career. Throughout his four years, Davis has compiled 585.1 innings at 3B for an average UZR of -2.75. Already it is fairly obvious that he could potentially be a better option than Reynolds at 3B. Both still have negative UZR, but it's an easy conclusion that -2.75>-8.36 (Reynolds' average UZR including 2011 season).

   So is putting Davis at 3B a simple solution to the terrible mess of defense that has killed the Orioles the past season? Possibly, but it still is just a...whatever. Could Wilson Betemit be a better option? He has an average UZR of -3.63 at 3B in eight seasons. So what should the Orioles do? They seemingly have three options as of now, unless they decide to give a utility guy, Ryan Flaherty, substantial playing time.

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    It honestly might make the most sense to simply switch Reynolds and Davis from 1B and 3B. While neither are very good at either position, Reynolds plays an alright defense at 1B compared to 3B. throughout the two seasons in which Reynolds was given significant playing time at 1B, he posted a average UZR of -5.1. While not good, it is a ton better than anything he does at 3B. Davis posted an average UZR of -1.2 in four years at first base. Betemit can play first as well.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic  *only 27 innings
   Looking at the above statistics, it sure seems that playing Reynolds and Davis across the diamond from their "original" location is the best move for the team. It allows them to keep Reynolds in the lineup, and Betemit can sub in for both players on the corners whenever he is needed. Of course, this team defense at the corners is dreadful. The Orioles did not place themselves in a good situation with young pitchers and poor corner defense.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Three Reasons to Catch a Minor League Game

    A cold beer and a nice summer breeze. The crack of the ball on a wooden bat. There is nothing better than relaxing on a beautiful day and watching a baseball game. I've been to so many games in my life that it's truly impossible to keep track of them. Whether it is at Camden Yards, Prince George's Stadium, or somewhere else, a baseball game is a way for someone to get away from reality and enjoy the beauty of baseball for a couple hours.

   A friend of mine recently asked why I would bother going to a minor league game. He said that "the players are not as good and their games don't even matter". Of course, I laughed and shrugged his silly thought off. But when I got home later that night, I began to think about what he said in a little more depth. Why would someone go to a minor league game?

1. Prospects, Prospects, Prospects- Regardless of what team is your favorite, they absolutely have prospects on the rise. Baseball is a different sport from others, in that some of the biggest excitement comes from players that are not even in the majors yet. There is a reason that Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, etc. spend such exorbitant amounts of time with their prospect lists. It is the backbone of the sport, and what all fans desperately want to know more about. This is why seeing a minor league game is such a great experience. It is like a sneak preview to the prospects' greatness. It is a chance to better know your club before the player earns their way to the major league level. The opportunity to see the player grow before your eyes is available, and it makes when they get to the big club that much more exciting.

2. It's Not All About Winning- Of course at the major league level the main importance is the W. No one really cares how the win is accomplished, but that is the main importance. Maybe someone is stat-tracking after a team falls out of contention, but for the most part, anybody at Camden Yards just cares about beating the Yankees (or whomever they are playing). In a minor league game, it is much more than that. Yea, some care about winning in the minors. They should. However, winning takes a seat to growth and maturity. As majority of the players are prospects, it is honestly more important to see how they progress during the year rather than the team winning. This is what makes a minor league game such fun. So what if Bowie lost 5-4? Manny Machado went 2-5 with a 3-R HR. Tyler Townsend continued to show solid plate discipline and notched two more hits. This is the best part about minor league games. while a win is important everywhere and prospects DO need to play in winning environments, it is not nearly as important as the growth of their game.

3. Bringing Back The Purity Of Baseball- Finally, minor league games offer a large advantage over the majors in one aspect. The players are not nearly as polished and therefore, are going to have their problems in certain aspects of the game. Not every player is going to have HR power, or top tier speed. Not every player is going to be the all-around star that is seen in the majors. This allows the game to be played at a much more pure state. I was told once by my grandfather that he enjoyed watching my high school games because every single player hustled and gave it their all. While I no doubt guarantee that each major league player does the same (for the most part), the stars already have their jobs' locked up. In the minors, these players are working for their jobs still. To me, this brings the game back to a much pure stage, where each player is giving their all. The game seems to shape like this too, as you see a ton of hustle plays. Some would argue that minor league ball is actually more exciting to watch. I don't entirely agree, but the argument is absolutely valid.

   Next time the Orioles or your club has a day off, go check out a minor league game. Remember these three points. Baseball is one of the best games in the world, and there is so much more to be discovered at the lower levels. I had the privilege to witness Manny Machado hit his first HR in AA Bowie this season, and I will most likely remember that moment my entire life. Wouldn't you like that?

Prospect Watch: Gabriel Lino

   The Orioles seemingly have a very stacked team in Delmarva. With the likes of Dylan Bundy, Parker Bridwell, Nick Delmonico, and Jason Esposito; it is certainly a fun team to watch. However, there is another player that gets much less buzz.

   Gabriel Lino is a Catcher out of Venezuela. At 6'3'' 195 lbs, the right-handed hitter has a solid frame to possibly one day become a catcher at the major league level. His name might not be a household one as of now, but it could only be a matter of time before the youngest player on Delmarva's roster is a well-known commodity.

   Lino spent his first two years down in the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League. While the numbers down there are not entirely important or clarifying of his prospect status, they are still fun to look at. The OBP. above .360 is quite the feat at any level.

201017Orioles 2DOSLFRkBAL54183140152810001942821.200.359.271.631
3 Seasons86290234305518123253837.235.365.346.711

    As shown above, Lino has started out his Delmarva debut hot. While it is absolutely a ridiculously small sample size, it is great to see some early success (4 games of success). I compiled a list of different thoughts from a few respected minds:

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus:
He ranked Lino 15th on his Orioles prospect list.
"Excellent defensive prospect still has to prove he can hit, but there are signs of power."

Don Olsen of Orioles-Nation:
"He has a powerful arm and the bat speed to really be a serious hitter. Glove needs improvement, footwork is still raw/early."

Jonathan Mayo of
He ranked Lino 11th on his Orioles prospect list.
"Matt Wieters doesn’t have to look over his shoulder just yet, but if everything comes together for this young backstop, he could be a good one. Lino is big and strong with an above-average to plus throwing arm. At the plate, he’s shown some patience as well as some raw power. All of his tools are in the nascent stages and the Orioles will have to be very patient, with a big payoff down the line a possibility."

   Lino is still quite far from the majors, but he is certainly a player to watch this year and in the future. He does not have many PA to his credit yet, so looking at the numbers is not the most important aspect at this time. As mentioned above, he is the youngest player on the Shorebirds' roster, and most likely finishes the season there.

Prospect Watch: Joe Mahoney
Prospect Watch: Xavier Avery
Prospect Watch: Ryan Adams

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Arrieta Analysis

   Jake Arrieta has long been known as one of the Orioles young "cavalry". According to Baseball America, he ranked as the #67 Prospect in 2009, and #99 in 2010. However, he struggled in his first two years with the Orioles. Now after a successful surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow, it appears that Jake Arrieta is primed to excel his career (Hopefully). However, there are a few things that still primarily worry me about Arrieta.

   In 2011, batters had a .308/.321/.385 (55 PA) batting line against Arrieta on the first pitch of the count. Clearly he was allowing way too much contact on first pitch, most likely because he was attempting to groove a fastball by them. I honestly have no problem with that, since that is clearly his best pitch. Nonetheless, it leads into my next point. Arrieta also was walking 2.02 batters per inning, which is obviously not good. This leads me to the question; Is Arrieta shying away after the first pitch of counts because he is afraid of contact? It seems like a plausible reason, but we would need much more information to ensure this.

Photo: CBS Baltimore
  Yesterday Arrieta pitched a great game. I counted a first pitch strike on 13/24 batters he faced. That means he threw a first pitch strike 54% of the time yesterday. In the 4th inning he did give up two first pitch hits, and it seemed that they had "figured out" to attack him right off. Before the 4th inning, Arrieta was 8/9 on first pitch strikes. So obviously he was throwing strikes early, and making them challenge him. In reality, it seems that when Arrieta does indeed throw that first pitch strike, he has no problem during the inning (this is generally the case for any pitcher). The average for a batter after a 0-1 count was somewhere around .240 last season. If you look at the few innings yesterday where he "struggled", you can see he had ZERO first pitch strikes and was behind in the count a few times. The 4th inning was clearly his worst inning, but he got out of it due to a little help from the hitters swinging on the first pitch of the AB. That is a good thing for Arrieta, as it helped to limit his pitch count. It also makes me think that the above batting line from last season is not exactly a telling sign for this season.

   Last season Arrieta only threw into the 7th inning four times. In those four times he only pitched 3.2 innings. The main reason why Arrieta wasn't getting into the 7th was primarily because of his pitch count. He tends to try and strike out every single batter, and often finds himself throwing way too many pitches per AB. Yesterday he did a much better job at limiting the number of pitches per AB. In the first inning he threw 17 pitches, which was an OK start. He was bailed out by a double play as well after he issued a walk, although it was a great pitch to induce it. The next two innings he followed with 12 and 10 pitches, mainly because he was throwing first pitch strikes and getting ahead of the batter. He also was inducing a ton of ground balls yesterday, due to his heavy two-seam fastball tailing late (Credit to Don Olsen of Orioles-Nation) Overall, it was an impressive day for Arrieta, and he only walked two batters. I plan to keep track of Arrieta throughout the season, and hopefully he can keep this trend of throwing first pitch strikes going. I'd like to see it go all the way into the 7th inning next time, but the hitters could have picked up on this trend and thus why it altered.

His next start is scheduled against the New York Yankees

Thursday, April 5, 2012

4/5 Final FIP Projections

The opening day pitching staff is finally complete. On that note, it is time to finish up the FIP projections for the 2012 staff. This is based off the staff whom will be on the 25-man roster this Friday.

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ZIPS does not like the Orioles' pitching staff. The Bill James and MARCEL projections do not really like the staff either, but they are not as harsh. There are no projections for Wei-Yin Chen at all, so I just left him blank instead of magically creating numbers. Bill James also does not have a projection for Darren O'Day.

These numbers will clearly fluctuate once different pitchers make their way onto the roster (Tsuyoshi Wada, Zach Britton, etc), but as of now it gives a fairly good idea as to how the pitching staff will perform. Obviously with the projections above, they will not be very good, but all three projections above would actually be better than last years' 4.67 FIP. That ranked dead last if you were wondering.

The Orioles will probably rank near the bottom echelon in FIP once again this year, but I wouldn't be surprised if they actually moved up a little in the ranking. They were historically bad in 2011.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ex-Orioles Update

   Roster fluctuation is rather common during the off-season.Whether it be from trade, release, or free agency, most teams often go through a long list of changes. I've compiled a little update on all the players the Orioles lost this season (At least all the ones I could remember):

Kyle Hudson- After signing with the Texas Rangers as a minor league free agent, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations. He has a chance to make the club as a 4th OF due to Sam Fuld sustaining an injury. Either way, he will likely provide the Rays with an insurance policy in case of injury, whether it is in the MLB or AAA.

Matt Angle- He was claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers after being designated for assignment by the Orioles. He has been in competition for the final spot on the 25-man roster and appears to still be in contention, although he is on the outside looking in. He most likely plays CF for the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes.

Tyler Henson- He was a part of the Dana Eveland deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers The 24-year old will begin the year most likely as the Isotopes 4th OF, although he will probably get plenty of playing time if/when Jerry Sands or Matt Angle are called up to the Dodgers.

Jarret Martin- He was the second piece of the Dana Eveland trade. He will most likely begin the season as a SP with the Hi-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, although that is not set in stone. There have been reports that Martin has impressed in camp so far, making the Eveland trade not look entirely fascinating.

Randy Henry- He was traded for Taylor Teagarden. He has apparently been converted to a starter. I'll just leave this tidbit here from someone whom has seen him on various occasions:
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Greg Miclat- Miclat was the Player To Be Named Later (PTBNL) in the Taylor Teagarden trade. There have been mixed reviews of him, according to Parks.

Brandon Snyder- He was traded to the Texas Rangers for cash considerations. He appears to be in line to make the Rangers 25-man roster, and could act as their emergency catcher.

Felix Pie- He signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians. He did not make the club as a non-roster invitee and will play for their AAA club, the  Columbus Clippers.

Jeremy Accardo- He signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians. He was invited to camp as a non-roster invitee and was one of the final cuts for the 25-man roster.

Clay Rapada: He was designated for assignment by the Orioles and signed with the New York Yankees on a minor league deal. He has most likely locked up the final spot in their bullpen as the LOOGY.

Chris Jakubauskas: He signed a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and will most likely start for their AAA club, the Reno Aces.

Jo-Jo Reyes: He signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates and will most likely starter for their AAA club, the Indianapolis Indians.

Mitch Atkins: He signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals. He probably will fill a rotation spot for their AAA club, the Syracuse Chiefs.

Cesar Izturis: He signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was a non-roster invitee and has made the club as a backup middle infielder.

Pedro Florimon Jr: He was claimed off waivers by the Minnesota Twins. He seems in line to start the year as the starting SS for the Twins AA club, the New Britain Bear Cats, although he could also play at AAA Rochester.